O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Bless the Lord dews and falling snows.
Bless the Lord you nights and days.
Bless the Lord light and darkness.
Sing God’s praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord frost and cold.
Bless the Lord you ice and snow.
Bless the Lord lightnings and clouds.
O let the earth bless the Lord.
Sing God’s praise and exalt him for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
In 2018 I went on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As you journey through the land where Jesus himself walked, worked his wondrous signs and sacrificed himself for the whole of humanity, you cannot help but be aware of the political and military tensions that dominate daily life. Jerusalem is a great city that is not at peace within itself. There is a constant sense of threat and uncertainty. As I made my pilgrimage I found myself pausing to reflect upon the words that open today’s reading: When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Jesus is telling us that the sign that the end of the world was near would be the surrounding of Jerusalem with armies. This end-time would also be associated with the abomination that causes desolation that we read of elsewhere in the gospel narrative. As I stood in Jerusalem, I pondered how much worse it could get before Jesus’ prophecy became a reality.
It is not for us, of course, to know the times and the events that will befall this world. Many have offered confident predictions about the end of all time, only to find the moment pass without significant incident. It is not for us to understand the mind of God. Instead it is for us to heed Jesus’ words at the end of today’s reading: stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
A couple of weeks ago, on Remembrance Sunday, many people across the country sang the hymn ‘O God, our help in ages past’. The fourth verse of that hymn gives some perspective to today’s reading: A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone, short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.
Our concept of time, and of how human history plays out, is based in human experience and human folly. The words of that famous hymn are used every Remembrance Sunday as we remember the horrific cost of human pride and anger. But, this verse in particular, also offers us the message of hope that is contained within the final words of our reading. Time in this world is but the blink of an eye to God, and we are called to be ready for the moment when it will end, whether that be today, tomorrow or in a thousand of our years.
Let us pray that we might hold firm as the ravages of human turbulence swirl around us. Let us not try to set the timescale for God, no matter how ‘obvious’ the signs may seem to us. Let us pray that we might ever be ready for the moment when we stand before God, and that we may be able to: stand up and raise our heads, as all is revealed and made clear in God’s good time.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray for grace as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Keep the Church faithful to heed your warnings and to trust in your promises. Make her ministers ever watchful to protect your people against evil and to lead them into the way of truth.
Look with compassion on the world where many are weighed down by care and trapped in the desire for ever-increasing pleasure. Heal the hostilities which divide nations, and bring to the whole earth the blessing of peace.
Lift up our eyes to see the signs of our redemption at this present time. When troubles distress us, give strength to us, to our families, friends and neighbours, and free our hearts from fear.
We pray for all who are afflicted, for the victims of war and violence, for those in peril from natural disasters. Bring the calm of your presence to all whose lives are stunted by fear and anxiety.
Receive into eternal life the souls of all who have passed through the dangers of this world and come to their rest. Keep us mindful that after the death of the body we shall stand before the Son of Man, and grant us mercy in that day.
We pray in the name of Christ, whose words will not pass away.
Prayer for the week
Lord, you have blessed the world
by sending your Son into our midst
and by making all things new in him.
We ask you to give all people
the courage and power we need
to share fully in his mission to the world
and to further his kingdom in the lives of all,
to the honour and glory of his name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.